Saturday, 6 October 2012

Sleepy Giants

Queens Park Rangers 2 Reading 3

Queens Park Rangers 1 West Ham 2

West Bromwich Albion 3 Queens Park Rangers 2


A review of  Sleeping Giant: An Indian Football Story

It's been a while since I last wrote a blog post and I owe you all this bumper issue. Sadly, there isn't a lot to celebrate. Looking at the list above these were matches that we were meant to win and where we were meant to pick up points. And while I know we never do well in any cup runs, I did feel a moment of hope when we drew the 'fake hoops' that perhaps we'd defy our poor record for the first time in a long time.

The busy fixture list makes the Reading game seem like a distant memory in all honesty. But at that stage, the Tottenham game was still fresh in my mind and I was prepared to forgive the generally poor Rs performance on Wednesday night and count it off as a bit of a blip.

So by the time we played West Ham, I, like many others was filled with a great sense of optimism. We were poorly rewarded for our hope and our support. After a hectic Monday at work, I rushed over to Loftus Road to meet two friends from the dark side (West Ham supporters) who were going to sit with me in the Upper Loft. Shoot me if you like for bringing them along. I wouldn't have if I didn't know that QPR was their 'second team'. I don't really believe in that, and I am hopeful that I can turn them to support a decent family club like QPR (watch this space). So while I was absolutely miffed that we let in a horrific soft goal I must say I was also in fits of laughter as I watched my friend stand up and punch the air saying 'damn, ridiculous.' It was fabulous acting. Not normally known for drinking on a school night and after 3 pints I was soon annoying everyone around me as I ran down to the ladies at 40 minutes. I knew I wouldn't miss much that was any good, and I was right.

One pie, and one a half pint later, I watched as Taarabt and Diakite fired up the team that appeared to pretty sleepy. All of us knew Diakite was going to get in trouble, and we were right. It was pure misery. Not only we were defensively poor, but we were completely over run in midfield. And while I don't proclaim to be a tactician by any stretch of the imagination I do believe Mark Hughes didn't get it right on the night. And I do not believe that being down to ten men lost us the game. We lost that game the moment West Ham scored their first goal.

We will continue to ask questions as fans. We're seven games in, we sit at the bottom of the table. And what excuse do we have given the class of players we have playing for us? The boys appear to be in a deep slumber, at the cost of points on the board. Surely questions need to be asked about why the team is not gelling (outside of the injury problems), and whether they have the right attitude.

So now, I turn to my mid-week jaunt at the Everyman in Belsize Park. For some reason, the Premiere of a new Docu-Film by Ad Hoc Films (the producers of The Four Year Plan) did not get a lot of PR with QPR fans. I am not familiar with the details of the relationship between the makers and QPR but can surmise that having built the relationship with the club for the first film all parties wanted to milk the opportunity as much as possible with the second film. Sleeping Giant is a documentary film about the history of football in India and how it has suffered over the past fifty years due to the growth of the popularity of cricket. It tells the story through a set-up in which two boys from Mumbai are picked out of 2,000 to play for the QPR Youth Team under the leadership of Steve Gallen and Marc Bircham.

As well as learning that Indian football used to be massive, and that while they qualified for the World Cup in 1950 the team then withdrew as they were not allowed to play barefoot, I got a real sense of the frustration at every level in India that football isn't getting the funding and infrastructure it needs to progress. But what really came through for me was the importance of the right kind of coaching and guidance that footballers at an early age need in order to feel they have a chance of progressing to a decent professional level.

In a touching scene filmed on the first day of training back at Harlington you can hear Steve Gallen telling the lads not to let the new boys fall behind as they warm up. This is in full knowledge that the two boys are not as physically fit or as physically built up as the lads in London. And while, in the ensuing Q&A we had that night, the panel talked about cultural differences in terms of body-shape and physiology and the need for players from around the world to adapt their style and training to suit a level of play (using the Japanese leagues as an example), it seems that Steve truly believes that attitude, intelligence, personality and communication makes all the difference.

It was interesting to hear that from him. And interesting to see also that the boy they felt was both technically adept and a bit more vocal at the beginning of their journey, ended up deciding to settle for splitting his time between football and engineering. Whilst the other boy who was rather lost and quiet for the first four weeks actually found in himself when he returned home, a real hunger to succeed and play football and has now taken part in international tournaments for his age group. It took the trip to London and a bit of time thereafter to open his eyes and wake him up.

Apart from realising that Steve Gallen is a seriously good bloke who obviously cares very much about the boys that he coaches I also learned that QPR's first team seriously lacks attitude, personality and communication skills. No I don't want Joey Barton back, and I am not sure that it's passion or commitment I am asking for either. But I'm starting to wonder just how much attitude, intelligence, personality and ability to communicate our players really have? And I am also starting to wonder after this latest 3-2 loss, just how much it is going to take to wake them up.

But you can't make people have intelligence, or personalities. People are born with these attributes aren't they? Or maybe there is a chance to mould people...I hate to say it, but having a bit of personality in Warnock must have filtered through to the boys back in the days when we were in the Championship and when we were promoted. Now, apart from the odd one or two we look positively zombie-like. I am almost hoping that the whole of the first team (captain Park included) get caught smoking shisha pipes and doing jager bombs together in some dodgy London club tonight AND that there's loads of controversy about it. Then at least I'll know they are human and need to let off steam. And I'll know that they might just want to come back and prove they really are a football team and not a group of individual players that are not as good as they should be.

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